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V-Mart focused on feel at plate, not spring HRs

Tigers slugger, heading into age-39 season, looks like old self with 3 homers so far
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Dalton Pompey did his best to try to deny Victor Martinez his third home run of the spring Wednesday, leaping at the left-field fence in an attempt to bring the line drive back. He couldn't get to it, but Martinez wouldn't have cared less if he had.

"Spring Training numbers mean nothing," Martinez said. "I can't tell you how many players I've seen hit .600 in Spring Training and then they got sent [down to the Minors] in May or June. Spring Training only means something for a few players at the end of the day."

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LAKELAND, Fla. -- Dalton Pompey did his best to try to deny Victor Martinez his third home run of the spring Wednesday, leaping at the left-field fence in an attempt to bring the line drive back. He couldn't get to it, but Martinez wouldn't have cared less if he had.

"Spring Training numbers mean nothing," Martinez said. "I can't tell you how many players I've seen hit .600 in Spring Training and then they got sent [down to the Minors] in May or June. Spring Training only means something for a few players at the end of the day."

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And yet, at the end of these Grapefruit League days, you can tell this means something to Martinez. Maybe the numbers are irrelevant, but his swing, his timing and his legs are all important for him. At age 39, coming off a season that began roughly on the field and turned scary off the field with two episodes of an accelerated heartbeat leading to a corrective procedure, how Martinez would bounce back was a mystery. He put in the training this winter, but even he didn't know for sure what awaited.

Video: TB@DET: Martinez launches a two-run homer in the 4th

Martinez hints at retirement without declaring whether this season will be his last. But with his 40th birthday coming just before Christmas and his four-year contract in its final season, it's enough of a thought that this spring means something.

"It's my last year of my contract," Martinez said. "It might be it. It might not. Who knows? But I have never taken things for granted. I won't take anything for granted. Like I always say, this is the only thing I know how to do. Just make sure that I get ready."

He measures that not in hits, homers or RBIs, but in how he feels at the plate. The Tigers can't read minds, so they read the swings, if not the results. So far, the results are encouraging.

It's not simply about the home runs, though with half of his six hits leaving the park, they're notable. It's the consistency of quality contact. He's hitting line drives with consistency, whether they're hits or outs. He has three strikeouts in 24 at-bats, albeit in a small sample size. He's moving around decently by his standard, though his days of legging out extra-base hits with an aggressive turn at first are likely over.

Video: ATL@DET: Martinez hits a solo homer in the 2nd inning

"They've been feeling pretty good, I'd say," Martinez said of his legs.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Martinez is not where he wants to be yet, which is why he has traditionally been a player who prefers a heavy diet of at-bats in the spring. Manager Ron Gardenhire has him penciled in for nearly all the home games this spring. He was not on Thursday's trip to Bradenton to face the Pirates, but will likely be back in the lineup Friday when the Mets visit Joker Marchant Stadium. He'll likely catch up on road games in the next couple weeks when the Tigers start facing the Braves at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex, not far from Martinez's Orlando-area home.

If Martinez keeps this up, he'll likely be somewhere in the middle of the order when the Tigers open the season March 29 against the Pirates. Whether his spring swing heads north with him, he's not predicting -- much like his future.

"Sometimes it takes me the whole year to figure it out," he said. "Sometimes it takes me two months, one month, three months. Who knows?"

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Victor Martinez